A key referendum on Egypt’s amended constitution will be held next month, the interim president said on Saturday, calling on citizens to vote “yes” for a document that will be a major test for the country’s military-backed government and political transition plan.
Egyptian President Adly Mansour said the vote, set for Jan. 14 and Jan. 15, would be a first step toward building a modern democratic state.
“The document in our hands today is a text that should make every Egyptian proud, and [it is] the correct starting point for building the institutions of the modern democratic state that we all aspire to,” he said to an audience of government officials, members of the panel that drafted the constitution and relatives of people killed in Egypt’s past three years of unrest.
The amended draft constitution, finalized earlier this month by a 50-member panel that Mansour appointed, is a key step in the political road map activated by the military after it removed former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi from power in July.
It replaces the constitution drafted by an Islamist-led panel, approved in a referendum last year, and suspended after Morsi’s ouster.
The Islamist-drafted charter had galvanized opposition against Morsi, amid a last-minute walkout from the secular and Christian members of the 100-member panel, appointed then by the Islamist-dominated parliament. Opponents were protesting the charter because they said it had an Islamist slant, giving religious interpretations a greater role in legislation and trampling on rights and freedoms.
Despite a 63 percent approval, turnout was low, a little more than 30 percent — and many of Morsi’s opponents used the disputed constitution as a rallying point to campaign against him.
A bigger margin and stronger turnout could be touted as a show of the legitimacy of the post-coup leadership, particularly amid continued opposition from Morsi supporters to the road map and the current authorities. The referendum on the constitution sets in motion a schedule for parliamentary and presidential elections to replace the interim authorities with a newly elected government and legislature.